Normal rainfall in Florida ranges from 52” to approximately 60” per year. However, more than one-half of the annual total rain falls from June through September. During the winter and spring lack of rainfall may seriously affect lawn and garden growth without supplemental irrigation.

Often, droughts are thought of as long periods of time, such as months or years without rain, but Florida can experience drought conditions after only a few days without rain. This is a result of the very sandy soils in most of the state. Even during the rainy season, evapotranspiration (ET) rates may be high enough that irrigation of shallow rooted crops is required in order to avoid excessive water stress.

Florida's sandy soils have very low water holding capacities, and therefore the amount of water stored in the root zone, and available to the plant is very limited. Consequently, to avoid water stress, soil moisture must be replenished frequently by natural rainfall or supplemental irrigation.

Changes in water management and scheduling of supplemental irrigation can improve the drought resistance of turf and should be included in lawn management. This process is called drought conditioning. The objective of drought conditioning is to grow a good quality lawn that will survive on little or no supplemental irrigation. It includes proper water application, good mowing practices, fertilization and pest control.

For more information and charts go to:
Irrigation of Lawns and Gardens. Dorota Z. Haman, Gary A. Clark, Allen G. Smajstrla. Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date: May 1989.